By Josh Price
Last week I wrote about the devolution of military leadership here in America. To make my point, I conducted a very basic compare/contrast analysis of World World War II and Cold War hero General Curtis LeMay and the current commander in charge in Afghanstan, General Stanley McChrystal (read that analysis here).
My main point in that piece was how the military now places more emphasis on public relations campaigns and saving the lives of foreign “innocent” civilians than on saving the lives of its own servicemen and women and attaining victory. This point was validated when I read an article outlining how and why Stanley McChrystal was put in charge of coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Gates and Mullen had been having doubts about McKiernan since the beginning of the year. They regarded him as too languid, too old-school and too removed from Washington. He lacked the charisma and political savvy that Gen. David H. Petraeus brought to the Iraq war.
Mullen traveled to Kabul in April to confront McKiernan. The chairman hoped the commander would opt to save face and retire, but he refused. Not only had he not disobeyed orders, he believed he was doing what Gates and Mullen wanted.
You’re going to have to fire me, he told Mullen.
Two weeks later, Gates did. It was the first sacking of a wartime theater commander since President Harry S. Truman dismissed Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1951 for opposing his Korean War policy.
“There are those who would have waited six more months” in order to have a less abrupt transition, Mullen said in an interview. “I couldn’t. I’m losing kids and I couldn’t sleep at night. I have an unbounded sense of urgency to get this right.”
Oh, make me gag. Spare me the nonsense about you not being able to sleep at night because we’re losing servicemen and women, Admiral Mullen. If you were that concerned about their lives you wouldn’t have gone along with the decision to force the Navy to take a “hail and query” (you know, ask the enemy ship if we can come aboard) strategy during the recent North Korean ship issue, nor would you have replaced Gen. McKiernan with someone who restricted the use of air power (one of the only facets of our power working) in Afghanistan!
The decision was not discussed at length within the White House but was endorsed by Obama. It reflects a view among senior Pentagon officials that top generals need to be as adept at working Washington as they are the battlefield, that the conflict in Afghanistan requires a leader who can also win the confidence of Congress and the American public.
“Blame General Petraeus,” a senior Defense Department official said. “He redefined during his tour in Iraq what it means to be a commanding general. He broke the mold. The traditional responsibilities were not enough anymore. You had to be adroit at international politics. You had to be a skilled diplomat. You had to be savvy with the press, and you had to be a really sophisticated leader of a large organization. When you judge McKiernan by Petraeus’s standards, he looked old-school by comparison.” (my emphasis)
Requiring our military leaders to be skilled diplomats and “savvy” with the press are two of the reasons why we aren’t winning the War on Islamofascism.
The fact is Gen. McChrystal was chosen to replace Gen. David McKiernan because he was more adept at public relations and dealing with Congress, not because he was a superior military commander or leader. I would suggest that McChrystal was also chosen due to his ties with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Michael “Hail and Query” Mullen. Admiral Mullen, as Michael Savage correctly points out, is nothing but a PR man in military dress.
If being proficient in public relations is the main criterion we’re now looking for in our military leaders we may as well admit defeat right now.
Gen. McKiernan may, indeed, have needed to be removed, but the justification given by Admiral Mullen and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates should scare the bejeezus out of everyone who loves and admires what the U.S. military used to be.
The fact of the matter is that I couldn’t care less if our military leaders are good at giving speeches or wooing D.C. socialites at the nightly cocktail party. No, I want a blunt, caustic, feared person who values victory above good PR. I want military leaders who don’t care if they’re liked by the media or members of congress.
I want military leaders who are unwavering in their quest for victory; who have the killer instinct necessary to win any war.